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Mountain dining
at Rush Creek Lodge

If you want to experience the great outdoors and truly enjoy nature, then take the journey to Rush Creek Lodge in Groveland, just outside Yosemite.

Photo by Virginia Still
The lodge is a destination within a destination as many people travel to Yosemite from all over the world to enjoy the splendor of trails, mountains, waterfalls and breath-taking scenery. The lodge offers a backstage pass for guests to get a preview of what the area has to offer with trails, ponds, pools, hot tubs, fire pits, therapeutic treatments, kids zip lines, slide, nightly s’mores around the fire, a variety of games and nature crafts, to name a few. There is a guest lounge and recreation desk where guided activities are offered and guests can create their own adventure on the property or at Yosemite. 

Alongside the majestic scenery is a true gem of a dining experience. Rush Creek Executive Chef Anthony Lemens, also known as Chef Tony, has brought his skills and diversity to a menu with a fusion of cultures and flavors to delight every traveler, whether they are staying on site or passing through for breakfast, lunch or dinner. 

Photo by Virginia Still
“I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to put my stamp on this,” said Lemens. “To this point I don’t know that there is anything that I specialize in. My style encompasses comfort food, classic technique and just things that are like homey and good. I like simple food that is prepared well.”

Chef Tony has been at Rush Creek for over two years and coming from a city in Wisconsin, he had to adjust to the lodge that is quite remote and removed from conveniences. He grew up helping his mother who was a baker and when he was 16 got a job as a dishwasher at a bed and breakfast in North County Wisconsin. He moved up the ranks to a prep cook and then a line cook. After spending some time in college for architecture and being told by several people that he should attend culinary school he finally did. 

With a guest list that includes visitors from all over the world like Australia, the South Pacific, Japan, India and China, it was important to Chef Tony to have a menu that has something for the different cultures. He makes two menu changes a year with a spring/summer menu and a fall/winter menu. Some of the tasty dishes on the menus may include a homemade Bolognese that he learned how to make when he traveled to Italy and a curry that he learned how to make when he was in England. Making adjustments from his Midwest recipes to a healthier menu and sticking to local California ingredients have been part of the inspiration for the menu at Rush Creek. 

“The mindset that I had to shift is just thinking about vegetables a little bit more and not cooking so heavy,” stated Lemens. “I have noticed a cultural thing that people are conscious of what they eat especially in California. The allergies, the gluten free is huge. Most things if they are not gluten free they can be adjusted to gluten free. We try to make the wait staff very knowledgeable of that stuff so they can tell them at the table. There are notations vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free on the menu.”

Photo by Virginia Still
The duck tacos are a fusion of cultures with a French style slow cooked duck confit, Korean BBQ sauce, and a kimchi slaw made in house with pickled carrots and cucumber. 

The owners wanted a hearth oven which is a focal point in the main dining room where they make several dishes including the flatbreads with homemade dough that turns into a nice thin crispy crust with fresh tomato, basil, and mozzarella. 

The unique creation from Chef Tony that is served with chop sticks is the cauliflower that is a combination of his love for fried chicken and keeping things healthy. The cauliflower florets are marinated in buttermilk and siracha sauce then coated with flour and cornstarch and deep dried and tossed in the sauce. A simple dish, the Chef expresses the flavors of sweet, sour and a bit spicy. It hits the palate and finishes with a light crunch. The delicious dish can be shared as appetizer or an entrée. 

A top seller on the menu is the King Salmon with bok choy, soy glazed shitake mushrooms, yuzu-ginger butter and sesame seeds. The taste and the texture of the perfectly cooked salmon blended with the flavors of baby bok choy and mushrooms as the chef said himself is cohesive and eating it feels luxurious. 

Visit Rush Creek in March for a Winemaker Weekend where renowned Napa winemakers bring people together that share the love of Yosemite, fine wine and food pairings. Returning to Rush Creek will be Alison Rodriguez with the Hess Collection from March 1-3. They will have a welcome reception and tasting with the winemaker as well as freshly prepared hors d’oeuvres created by Chef Tony. 

Rush Creek is a true getaway for those that want to spend some time relaxing, eating well, playing a little, and just unplugging, getting in tune with nature and having an adventure. 

“Our mantra is that we are trying to make this a destination in a destination so this place, yeah, it is a stepping stone to go to Yosemite but if you want to just hang out and relax and not have to worry about traffic there is so much to do here that you can spend a nice day with your loved ones, your kids or even yourself,” expressed Lemens. “The tavern has modern drinks, a very good wine list, local beers and food prepared by people who care. You just don’t find it down the road.”

Photo by Virginia Still
Rush Creek Lodge at Yosemite, 34001 Highway 120, Groveland, is just a half-mile from the Highway 120 West entrance to Yosemite National Park. Guests may call (209) 379-2373 or email to reserve a package or visit ■